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It’s 2013 – stop paying for a land line. If you’ve got broadband Internet you can set up Skype, pay for a subscription and and keep your total home phone bill under $5 a month – long distance to phones throughout North America included (rates vary for other countries).
Kannon showed you how to save hundreds on your mobile phone bill in three easy steps. It works, but if a pay-as-you go plan is stopping you from having longer conversations don’t worry, Skype can save the day with its cheap long-distance plans.
Most people know you can use Skype to make free calls to other Skype users, with or without video. What many people don’t realize, however, is that you can also use the service to call regular phones – and that doing so can save you a lot of money. There are two ways to use Skype as a home phone, the first being to buy Skype credit. This is the pay-as-you-go option, and works well if you very rarely make phone calls.
The second option is a subscription, which allows you to make unlimited calls to anyone in a particular country for one monthly rate. Combine this with a dedicated Skype phone – or an app on your smartphone, tablet or computer – and you’ll be able to make and receive calls anytime. Go ahead and sign up for an account at Skype.com, if you haven’t yet, then keep reading to learn how you can use this service to replace your main home phone line.
Note: Skype cannot be used to call emergency services, such as 911 in North America. In case of emergency use your mobile phone.
Step 1: Get A Subscription
Now that you’ve got Skype it’s time to pay for the ability to call actual phones.
How much using Skype to replace your phone will cost depends on which countries it is you’d like to call. Myself, I’m mainly interesting in the USA and Canada (the country where I live and the country I’m from, respectively). Happily for me there is a North American plan, and it only costs $2.99 a month as of this writing, but note that you can get discounts for paying up front.
Head to the Skype rates page and search for the countries you’re interested in calling. You can buy multiple subscriptions if you regularly call multiple countries. And remember: the country you’re calling to does not have anything to do with the country you’re physically in. If you want to call the USA from India you can do that – and pay no more for the privilege than someone in the USA.
Check the details closely before paying for a subscription, however. The North American plan includes landlines and cell phones, while the European plan includes only landlines. If calling mobile phones outside North America is important to you this might not be ideal.
Note that, alternatively, you can get Skype Premium for $4.99 or more a month – it offers unlimited calls to any single country. For me this is a worse deal – I get unlimited calls to two countries for $2.99 – but depending on which country you want to call regularly this might be the best option. It comes with group video calls, if that’s important to you.
Step 2: Get A Skype Phone Number
A subscription means you can call other people, but what if you want other people to be able to call you? Well, you can set Skype to show any number, free of charge. Log into Skype, head to “Manager features” then click “Caller ID”. People you call with Skype will think you’re calling from whatever number you set here, and call back at that number. This works well if you have a mobile phone people can call you at.
If you want people to be able to call Skype directly, however, you’re going to need to buy a Skype number. Head to the SkypeIn page and see if your country is listed.
If it isn’t, sorry, you can’t get a SkypeIn number at this point (more countries are supported than those pictured above). If it is, click through to pick your number and find out about pricing.
If you already have a Skype subscription you should get a discount on a Skype number. I, for example, get a 50 percent discount on my USA Skype number because of my North American subscription. Just be sure to buy your subscription before your number in order to get the best price.
Step 3: Set Up a Phone
With the default Skype client you can easily call phones from your computer. This works well when you’re calling out, but if you want to receive calls regularly you’re going to need to leave your computer on constantly. If this is a problem for you, there are dedicated Skype phones out there you can buy. There aren’t as many of these on the market as there used to be, so they can cost quite a bit at first glance – the lowest options that don’t require a computer cost around $70.
Note that some of the cheaper options require a computer in order to function. There are also adapters if you’d rather keep using your current phone – shop around.
Of course, if you’d rather not buy a dedicated device, you could simply install Skype for iOS or Skype for Android instead. Connected to your WiFi network, you can use your phone with Skype account to make and receive calls – perfect if your contract limits the amount of voice calls you can make in a month.
If you have an old smart phone that you’re not using anymore, why not connect that to your WiFi network and use it as a Skype phone? All you need to do is download the app.
Bonus Points: Google Voice
Skype supports voicemail, and with it you can send SMS messages. If you want a more robust voicemail service, free SMS from any device, and the ability to take calls on Skype or your mobile phone, you should really check out Google Voice. Set up the service to forward calls to both your Skype account and your mobile phone and both will ring at once, meaning you’ll only need to use your mobile to take a call when you’re away from Skype.
Sadly, Google Voice is US only. Sorry.
Of course, if even Skype’s low rates are too steep for you, you can make free calls from Gmail – Google expanded free calls through 2013, in North America only.
But for the rest of us Skype is a reasonable option. Will you be switching to Skype? Let us know in the comments below.